Orencia (abatacept) is a brand-name injection prescribed for certain autoimmune diseases and the prevention of acute graft-versus-host disease. It works to treat these conditions by attaching to proteins on certain immune system cells.

Orencia is approved to treat certain autoimmune diseases and help prevent acute (sudden) graft-versus-host disease. Orencia’s mechanism of action (how the drug works in your body) is described below.

What are autoimmune diseases?

Your immune system protects your body against infections. It does this by attacking bacteria and viruses that enter or are already inside your body.

But sometimes, your immune system gets confused and starts attacking your cells. If it doesn’t stop, it causes autoimmune diseases. With these diseases, your immune system attacks the cells that make up your body’s tissues and organs.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis (PsA), and polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis (pJIA) are all autoimmune conditions. This means that if you have these conditions, your immune system attacks your body.

What is graft-versus-host disease?

Orencia is approved to help prevent acute (sudden) graft-versus-host disease caused by hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Like the autoimmune diseases described above, this condition involves an incorrect immune system reaction.

With acute graft-versus-host disease, the transplanted cells attack your own cells soon after the transplant. Your immune system then reacts by attacking the transplanted cells. This immune system reaction can cause various symptoms, some of which can be life threatening.

What does Orencia do?

Orencia works by attaching to two proteins called CD80 and CD86, which are found on certain immune system cells. The CD80 and CD86 proteins activate another type of immune system cell called T cells. T cells are a specific type of cell that helps your immune system fight infections.

By attaching to these proteins, Orencia stops the T cells from working properly. This prevents your immune system from attacking your cells, tissues, and organs.

Orencia helps slow the progression (worsening) of RA, PsA, and pJIA. It reduces the symptoms of these conditions, which can make you feel better. Orencia also helps lower your risk of acute graft-versus-host disease.

Orencia will start working in your body as soon as you start taking it. But rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis take time to treat. In clinical trials, people had improvement in their pain level and overall function within 3 months of starting treatment. However, each person’s response to Orencia will be unique.

Orencia is meant to be taken as a long-term medication for arthritis. If you stop taking it abruptly, symptoms of your condition may return. For graft-versus-host disease prevention, you’ll likely take the medication for about 1 month. However, stopping the medication early may increase your risk of this condition.

Do not stop taking Orencia after your symptoms improve. If you want to stop taking this drug, talk with your doctor. They’ll evaluate your condition and determine whether you still need to take Orencia.

If you’d like to learn more about Orencia, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They can help answer any questions you have about how the drug works in your body.

If you’d like to learn about other aspects of Orencia, you can explore these articles:

  • More information about Orencia. For details about other aspects of Orencia, refer to this article.
  • Side effects. To learn about side effects of Orencia, see this article. You can also look at the Orencia prescribing information.
  • Cost. If you’d like to learn about Orencia and cost, see this article.
  • Dosage. For information about the dosage of Orencia, view this article.
  • A look at arthritis. For details about arthritis, see our arthritis hub.

Disclaimer: Medical News Today has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.